Morning Brief: Automakers Set For DC Show

Automakers are revving up for a chance to get some face time with lawmakers in Washington this month at the 67th Washington Auto Show, reports staff writer Kendra Marr.

In Detroit last month, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) was the lone federal legislator to grace the show, setting off a stir when he appeared on the floor, Marr writes. Now the Washington show gives General Motors and Chrysler the opportunity to persuade politicians that they are building cars Americans want to buy.

Shortly after the displays are packed up, both automakers will be back in front of Congress, detailing viability plans that include significant cost cuts and union contract renegotiations. Failing to impress lawmakers could put the survival of GM and Chrysler in jeopardy, as each needs to borrow billions of dollars of taxpayer money beyond the $17.4 billion loan already allocated.

Manufacturers are bringing 700 new cars and trucks to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. They will be showing their latest fuel-efficient technologies and batteries, as President Obama has made it clear that he'd like to put 1 million American-made plug-in hybrid cars on the road by 2015 and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil.

In other news, Washington area venture capital investments fell 20 percent in 2008 as the economic downturn and credit crunch left fewer sources of financing available for such deals, according to a report.

Industry analysts said the decrease in local venture investments, which reversed a steady yearly increase in deal flow since 2004, mirrored a national trend: Turmoil in the financial markets made it difficult to close new deals and had venture capitalists focusing on nurturing companies in the later stages of development, though some start-ups were funded.

A total of $1.015 billion in 190 disclosed venture deals was raised in 2008, compared with $1.271 billion in 211 deals in 2007. Nationally, venture capital investment declined 8.4 percent, to $28.3 billion in 2008, compared with $30.9 billion in 2007, according to the MoneyTree Report on quarterly venture financing by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association. Not all funding is disclosed.

By Alejandro Lazo  |  February 2, 2009; 8:46 AM ET  | Category:  Economy Watch , Morning Brief , Sallie Mae
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